More Than Just a Swimwear Brand, Unika is for Women by Women
Being a swimsuit designer, seamstress and champion for women’s bodies you learn something quickly about almost all women – everyone has a part of their body that they’re not happy with. And Betsy Campos, founder of Ūnika Swim is trying to turn that around.
Recently opened in Yorkville in downtown Toronto, Ūnika creates custom swimwear for all women. Choosing from more than 200 styles and 150 fabrics, clients come in, get fitted, choose their style and have something hand-made just for them.
“When you’re wearing swimwear, you’re the most vulnerable, you’re practically naked – it’s a second skin and if it doesn’t fit you don’t feel confident,” said Betsy Campos, 26.
“And that’s where all this inspiration is drawn to create Ūnika. Ūnika comes from the Latin word one of a kind, unique, I wanted everyone to embrace their differences and accept themselves as they are.
Made for women, by women Campos has a team of eight who help her run the boutique and sew the swimsuits by hand. The journey started years ago when Campos herself would buy stuff off the rack, take it home, cut it up and make something unique.
“I kind of knew I had something going when girls started negotiating prices for items that I was wearing so that’s where it started,” she said.
Campos worked out of a home den creating pieces for friends and clients all through word of mouth. The growth of Ūnika has also been unique with no advertising and a website set to launch this July, it’s just been women sharing their positive experiences with others, and the store’s appointment book is full. And It’s not just the season, Campos explains. While we may have a shorter summer, Canadians are travelling more – especially to hot destinations in the winter and in those months shopping for swimwear is slim. Factor in style, design and of course body shape, Campos saw a big gap in swimwear fashion in North America.
“I cater to everyone but I wanted to make this for a woman who walks into a store and isn’t able to find something off the rack,” she said.
“The woman who is a medium but is a triple D or even the 14-year-olds, because of hormones, are an E cup and they’re ashamed of their bodies. It’s a win-win when someone walks in and they’re like ‘I want a one piece’ and I ask why? Let’s play around with your body, cater to that.”
Unika carries cup sizes from triple-A to J cup, Campos also caters to women who’ve had mastectomies creating pieces where they can comfortably insert their prostheses and women who have scars or have had C-sections.
“At the end of the day they’re going to choose whatever they want, so I let them pick what they want at first, but show them… all the different styles –that’s the best when they walk out, coming in wanting a one piece and leaving with pieces that are not that,” she said.
Canadian-born, but spent many years in Brazil, Campos noted a very different attitude towards body image and swimsuit styles compared to Canada.
“In Brazil, swimwear is kind of ingrained into our culture and I was always inspired by how everyone wore their stuff confidently,” she said.
“No one cared about what size they were, in South America, they’re all wearing the same thing.”
It’s an attitude she hopes to bring to all her clients now. While it may get hard to strip down for a stranger, Campos fills the conversation with icebreakers, friendliness and empathy to everyone’s unique insecurity. Campos herself struggled to find swimsuits to fit her frame, though some customers may not believe it.
“I’ve never had someone super closed off, if they are uncomfortable with me they feel like I can’t relate to their size which is a huge factor that I’ve had to deal with,” she said.
“Automatically they’ll look at me and think ‘oh, she doesn’t know my struggle’ and I do... I see 12-15 girls a day and nobody is happy. Some girl has too much boob and someone has no boobs, there’s the girl who has too much hip and a girl who has no hips. I tell them nobody is happy and they say I don’t understand, but I do! I hear it, I see it, I live it and I cater to it and this is why I did it, I think that’s the beauty of it – that everyone can leave here happy.”